Twenty-Three Hanging Trees – Cat’s Cradle

Another week, another immediately sold-out cassette on Stuart McLean’s eclectic Bibliotapes. This time around the subject is Kurt Vonnegut’s allegorical Cat’s Cradle (1963), and the artist offering up a soundtrack is Twenty-Three Hanging Trees, the alias of UK-based French electronic musician Xavier Watkins.

For a book so intertwined with dramatically apocalyptic sentiment, Watkins’ accompaniment is surprisingly and remarkably ephemeral. Fuzzy melodies and gauzy atmospheres dominate the eleven tracks, creating a sort of detached, observational response to Vonnegut’s dark humour. The album’s most dramatic moments come on ‘As It Happened’, finding Watkins creating a soundfield of crackling static approximating the terminal solidifying of the world’s oceans thanks to the escape of the ‘ice nine’ chemical on the island shores of San Lorenzo; the piece is full of a nauseating, unstoppable terminal motion, reaching a crescendo as gentle liquified ripples are replaced by a horrifying stillness.

Elsewhere, ‘The Illustrious Hoenikkers’ finds layers and cycles of vintage, fluttering synthesizer passages, full of mystery and retro-futuristic promise; its gentle phasing and questing arpeggios recall the earliest electronic albums, only offset by a brooding sense of things being far from optimistic. The languid guitar-like textures and delicate melodic washes of ‘I See The Hook’ are arguably among the most surprising moments here given that their serene tonalities are paired to the San Lorenzo ruler’s favoured form of execution and dictatorial enforcement.

Cat’s Cradle by Twenty-Three Hanging Trees was released by Bibliotapes on September 27 2019 and is now sold out. A digital version is available at Bandcamp.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Pétra – Aunis

Pétra is a collaboration between dancer, musician and former NYC gallery owner Chantal Chadwick and LA electronic musician Brian Allen Simon, better known by his alias Anenon. The vast majority of Aunis was created on the Greek island of Nisyros after Chadwick and Simon were invited to participate in an artist residency, its thirteen beatific moments acting as a response to the unspolit rocky environs they found themselves among juxtaposed with the curious built environment photography of Daniel Boudinet.

The album operates at a significant distance from Simon’s long-standing Anenon project. While both Petrol (2016) and Tongue (2018) – like Aunis – found Simon creating musical responses to a specific place (LA and Tuscany respectively), both of those albums found Simon complementing field recordings with expressive soprano sax and a consummate modern classical compositional dexterity. Placed in Nisyros with Chadwick, the music they have created together is structured principally around a more pronounced electronic palette of sounds, each piece taking the form of a soundscape evoking, in some way, the landscape of the island. Simon’s saxophone appears briefly on the meditative ‘Aire’ and as the coda on ‘Tavel’, but for the most part his horn rarely comes out of its case.

Like Boudinet’s pictures, these pieces are presented with a directness and a flat, almost emotionless observational quality. A piece like ‘Lave’ has an inner warmth, its soft pads, bassy undercurrent and occasional flutters of synth arpeggios as gently evocative as a Boudinet Polaroid of the sun rising over a crumbling Parisian palace balustrade. Other tracks feature the gentle lapping of waves against the shore, creating a serenity and mournfulness thanks to the unresolved textures that surround the field recording, while pieces like ‘Tavel’ or ‘Hydra’ are more consciously melodic, their chiming synths carrying a roughened, imperfect quality bordered by atmospheric white noise.

On these pieces, it is as if Chadwick and Simon are drawing attention to the essential chaos and unpredictability that characterises all of nature, despite our best endeavours to apply a sense of order to that which we cannot control. That their collaboration can be so expressly in tune with nature while never once sounding like ambient new age meandering is a wonder to behold.

Aunis by Pétra was released September 20 2019 by Injazero.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further

Aki Onda + Paul Clipson – Make Visible The Ghosts

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“It’s not about the sound and image resolving. It’s about the ambiguity between them and suddenly this feeling of coalescence, then also disparity and dissonance.” – Paul Clipson (1965 – 2018)

For the best part of nine years until his untimely death at the start of 2018, filmmaker Paul Clipson and experimental audio artist Aki Onda were friends and like-minded collaborators, both sharing similar and complementary sensibilities and interests despite working in arguably distinct disciplines.

Make Visible The Ghosts was originally conceived for a date at Brooklyn’s ISSUE Project Room. The premise that the pair came up with was a collaboration without collaboration: each would prepare a seventy-minute piece in isolation without revealing to the other what they were doing, which the pair would then perform simultaneously in February 2013.

In Onda’s case, his intended accompaniment to Clipson’s film left ample room for improvisatory, in-the-moment responses. He talks about hearing the whirring motion of the reels as something that needed to be brought into the sound-field he had crafted, quickly amplifying the sound during the performance with a microphone and giving that prominence in his audio collage; similarly, the progress and switches of Clipson’s images inspired him to add intra-channel radio static – that unpredictable, ghostly, between-frequency, unplaceable sound somewhere between the capture of spirit voices and out-of-control analogue synth spurts – across the length of his piece.

The version of Make Visible The Ghosts released by audioMER consists of four ten-minute tracks developed out of the material delivered at ISSUE and subsequently reworked over a period of three years, with stills from Clipson’s visuals presented as a regimented collage to form the LP sleeve. Perhaps out of reverence, or perhaps because it felt like it had become an integral part of the piece, Onda’s amplified reel recordings provide an occasional rhythm of sorts, and the freeform radio manipulations run throughout the four tracks like an improvised solo by a bandleader. Beneath those two chance-derived elements you hear the staples of Onda’s approach to field-recorded sound: traffic, conversation, atmospheres, all glued together by electronic tones, drones and processing that, while meticulously prepared, nevertheless feel spontaneous and brimming with energy. Though often contemplative, there are also moments of tension, such as the growling electronic interjections that dominate large sections of ‘Palm Held Out For Us To Read’.

Make Visible The Ghosts could not have existed, in this form, without Clipson. His death has left an indelible mark on Onda, and this album represents both a tribute to a friend and mentor, while also acting as a necessarily unique celebration of what is possible in the field of multi-disciplinary collaboration.

Make Visible The Ghosts by Aki Onda and Paul Clipson is released September 20 2019 by audioMER.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

memorycarderror – semiotic staples

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Adroitly described as “a hallucination inside brutalist concrete”, Toronto-based Steven Tait’s memorycarderror deals in drones, repetition and harsh tonalities that nod squarely in the direction of early industrial music.

On his second cassette album for Industrial Coast, the two 15-minute tracks possess a ground-out, fuzzy quality reminiscent of the early DIY 7-inch releases by Thomas Leer and Robert Rental: namely a punk spirit wrapped in warped and dirty effects. As it progresses, the single repeated bass-heavy riff of the A-side gently evolves, almost imperceptibly, but never once static. A sudden fade into silence reveals the tiniest of rhythms that may actually just be grimy intra-frequency radio pulses, before an ominous, brain-melting overdriven bass shape aggressively becomes the focus of the thrilling final five minutes.

The B-side is, if it’s even possible, harsher still. Its carefully-wrought, clashing cycles of angry distorted loops are delivered with a frantic, inescapable energy. Lying somewhere between metal, dark ambient and the sort of headcleaning noise that peppered David Lynch’s Eraserhead, it is not for the faint-hearted. Here, a sudden break in the tension locks your attention on a heavily-skewed beat that sounds as if it was developed from the wildest of malfunctioning amp feedback, slowly building back up into extremest malevolence.

semiotic staples by memorycarderror is out soon on Industrial Coast.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

The Night Monitor – This House Is Haunted // Phono Ghosts – Warm Pad, Sharp Stab

Two new releases from Blackpool’s Neil Scrivin, an electronic music maverick who also records under the alias Meatbingo.

The first, This House Is Haunted, is yet another gem of a release on Stuart McLean’s Bibliotapes cassette imprint, now long since sold out. The Bibliotapes ethics is to curate soundtracks to accompany a book, and Scrivin’s chosen subject is Guy Lyon Playfair’s account of the purported poltergeist haunting at a house in Enfield that caught the imagination of the media in the late Seventies. Whether the events in Enfield were true or a complete hoax developed by teenage imagination and fuelled by tabloid curiosity matters not to Scrivin; his soundtrack under a new alias, The Night Monitor, is bestowed with a paranormal creepiness – heavily-shrouded melodies emerge out of thick rivers of ectoplasm, looped voices chatter and babble incoherently, and thudding percussive sounds evoke the phantasmic movement of furniture.

The occluded tonalities of standout moments like ‘One For No, Two For Yes’ or ‘Ten Coincidences’ will give chills to anyone who spent their childhood evenings cowering behind the sofa because of an especially vivid Doctor Who episode or who couldn’t sleep thanks to the BBC’s hammy Ghost Watch (which was inspired by the Enfield haunting). However, Scrivin’s conceit is not to lace pieces like the evocative, static-hued soundfield of ‘I Can’t Make That Noise’ – a collage of whining drones, clamouring, scratchy sounds and a truly terrifying bass anchor – with a schlocky sequence of hauntological reference points. In doing so, This House Is Haunted is poised somewhere between the terrifying and inquisitive. Its twenty cues face inexplicable phenomena with an overriding sense of fear yet an underlying nausea-inducing intrigue, the final echoes of concluding piece ‘The Enfield Syndrome’ casting a long sonic shadow long after it has dissipated in silence.

A different – and potentially more visceral and relatable – sort of haunting takes place on Warm Pad, Sharp Stab, Scrivin’s fourth album as Phono Ghosts. Here you find the same melodic sensibilities melodies that colour This House Is Haunted, just set in a wholly different context, the result being a deft lightness thanks to being positioned as the top line in cuts that don’t rely on creepy textures for their emotional impact.

Instead, Phono Ghosts deals with the spectres of Eighties R&B and soulful electro – all fat digital basslines, chunky rhythms and a presentation that leans into a half-remembered pop vernacular. That tracks like the upbeat ‘L’Amour And Her Hot-Wired Hands’, the shimmering PWL-esque refrain of the serene ’81 Love’ or the emotional grandeur of the muted ‘Tears Over Chroma’ were not executed during digital synthesis’s takeover of music beggars belief.

Curiously, the melodic quotient isn’t the only crossover with The Night Monitor. On this brilliant collection you also find disembodied voices fluttering gently into view, only here they are vestiges of forgotten soul tracks, not the chance capture of elusive spirit echoes.

This House Is Haunted by The Night Monitor was released September 6 2019 by Bibliotapes and is sold out. A digital version will be released by Fonolith on October 25 2019.

Warm Pad, Sharp stab by Phono Ghosts was released September 13 2019 by Fonolith.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Rupert Lally – Dune

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My youth was, I now realise, haunted by Dune. My mother, sensing a Star Wars-led interest in science fiction films, bought my an empty Panini sticker album that was issued to go along with David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s celebrated novel. No one else at my primary school was collecting the stickers, and with no one to swap the endless, frustrating supply of duplicate stickers I invariably ended up with, it languished, unfinished until it found itself in the bin. Later still, I ended up receiving a copy of the 1992 Amiga computer game from a friend and, like a lot of games, I was utterly hopeless at it and I guess I either offloaded it back to that friend or it went off to some floppy disc recycling place upon the occasion of one of my successive house moves.

So to say I have mixed feelings about Dune is an understatement. Those youthful experiences have meant I never bothered to read the book, and I’d rather watch Eraserhead or The Elephant Man over Lynch’s take on Dune. I know – sacrilege, right?

But maybe there’s hope for me yet in the form of Rupert Lally’s brilliant new soundtrack to Herbert’s book, released as part of the Bibliotapes series. Lally is no stranger to this endeavour, releasing a coveted score to another sci-fi novel, John Wyndham’s The Day Of The Triffids, via the label earlier this year. Herbert’s book was originally presented in the science fiction periodical Analog, and, perhaps with intentional reverence, Lally enriches these 26 evocative cues with a beautifully-rendered analogue synth spice (pun intended).

Pieces like ‘Giedi Prime’, ‘Remember The Tooth!’ and ‘Leave No Trace’ proceed on prowling, throbbing bass tones full of both threat and mystery, representing a recognisable stylistic motif that runs through the whole of Lally’s vivid score. There are moments, such as on ‘A Deal With Kynes’, where those tones eddy upward with aggressive and intensifying malice, signalling danger, while elsewhere they ebb away into distant, mollified texture.

And yet nestled within these bleak wastelands of atmospheric sound, we find the spiralling melodies, intensifying arpeggios and pulsing beats of the singular ‘Wormsign’, representing a seamless entanglement of Seventies space disco, progressive house and Eat Static-y galactic psychedelia.

The fifty copies of the cassette edition of Lally’s Dune justifiably sold out in record time. Fortunately, these absorbing, pulse-sharpening tracks are all available at Rupert’s Bandcamp page, a link to which can be found below. I’m now finally going to go and track down a copy of Herbert’s book. It’s about time…

Dune by Rupert Lally was released September 13 2019 by Bibliotapes.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Brook – Built You For Thought

Informed by thought and feeling, rather than fashion and nostalgia, beneath a backdrop of well-thumbed science fiction paperbacks, the debut album from Brook creates a soundtrack to the loneliness of romance gone wrong, a longing for the past to be corrected by the future

The wonderfully-titled ‘Prince’ is propelled by an Escher-style arpeggio from Howard Rider, which enables vocalist Beth Brooks’ voice to swoop and spiral around it, like a sophisticated cat taking occasional swipes at a persistent wasp.

Whiplash snares, isolated pianos and synthetic music box melodies complement the emotional weight of the confessional nature of the lyrics, while also providing a safety net letting Brooks’ elegant trapeze act soar above it. The temptation may have been to match the scale of the vocals with layers and layers of sound but that would have been suffocating and overpowering. Instead, the music swells and crashes. Standout track ‘Everglades’ swaggers confidently on to the dancefloor, heartbroken but defiant.

So many musicians still feel the need to fill the kettle above the water line; it’s pleasing that Brook have adhered to the recommended level, both in content and quantity. By taking a nuanced and subtle approach, the two distinct elements of Built You For Thought combine to create a cohesive, timeless, whole.

Built You For Thought by Brook is released on September 20 2019 by VeryRecords.

Words: David Best. David Best is from Brighton’s Fujiya & Miyagi.

(c) 2019 David Best for Further.